Addressing Writing Skills

Despite the immense growth of typing and texting in our technology-driven world, writing skills remain essential. Children use writing skills both for fun and academic purposes. In order to scribble, color, trace, copy, or write, writing skills are required. If a child is having trouble with writing, not only could coloring or completing written school work be affected, but other fine motor tasks (movements using smaller muscles in the hands, fingers, wrists) could also be difficult for the child to complete (e.g., getting dressed, holding a cup, various play activities). Therefore, if we notice writing skills as a concern, we will address this through a variety of researched based interventions.

Below are a few focal interventions often implemented:

Prompt Fading – Prompt fading involves starting with the level of prompt the child currently needs and fading prompts until the child learns the writing skill independently. For example, the therapist may begin with using hand-over-hand physical prompts to help teach a child to hold a crayon correctly to color. Next, the therapist might prompt the child by modeling how to hold the crayon and color within the lines. Once the child is able to model the therapist, the therapist may just need to remind the child to stay within the lines when coloring (a verbal prompt) until the child independently colors within the lines.

Chaining – This is used to breakdown a task that requires multiple steps. For example, when learning to trace, copy, or write one’s name, breaking it down into small steps by first teaching only one letter in the child’s name such as the last letter (if using backward chaining) can be helpful. If the child’s name was “Carl” you would have “Car_” already written and the child would first learn the letter “l.” Once this was learned, the letters “Ca__” would already be written and the child would then learn to write both “r” and “l.” The next step would be for only “C____” to be written out, and the child would then learn to write “a,” “r,” and “l.” Lastly, the child learns to write his whole name, “Carl.”

Backward-Chaining/Trace, Imitate, Copy, Memory Worksheet (Klee, I. C., McLaughlin, T. F., Derby, K. M., Donica, D. K., Weber, K. P., & Kalb, G., 2015, p. 63)

Handwriting Without Tears is a common program used to teach handwriting that incorporates a variety of strategies.  An example of one strategy is through verbal prompts and utilizing the program’s language to help with formation of numbers and letters (e.g., writing an R – “Big line, little curve, little line”). Another strategy is through visual prompts. For example, some Handwriting Without Tears worksheets provide a smiley face to indicate where the child should begin writing.

Writing Without Tears Worksheets id#0 Worksheet. (n.d.).

Writing Without Tears Worksheets id#0 Worksheet. (n.d.).

Besides these interventions, there are many other ways to practice fine motor/writing skills such as:

  • Create a necklace/bracelet (can be modified by using different sizes of beads or string thickness)
  • Play-doh
  • Games (e.g. Connect Four, Pop the Pig, card games like Uno)
  • Shaving cream (e.g., draw pictures, practice writing shapes/letter/words, play tic-tac-toe)
  • iPad apps (e.g., iWrite Words, Letter School, HWT – Wet Dry Try, Alphabet Tracing – Free) Having the child use a stylus can work on holding a writing utensil.
  • Cooking (e.g., make chocolate chip cookies and encourage child to pick up chocolate chips using only their “pinchers” – thumb and index finger)

To conclude, a tip to promote a child to use their fingers and work on fine motor skill is to give a child small, broken crayons to color, draw, and/or write. This way children are required to use their fingers, instead of grabbing it with their fist.



Carlson, B., Mclaughlin, T. F., Derby, K. M., & Blecher, J. (2017). Teaching preschool children with autism and developmental delays to write. Electronic Journal of Research in   Education Psychology,7(17). doi:10.25115/ejrep.v7i17.1313

Klee, I. C., McLaughlin, T. F., Derby, K. M., Donica, D. K., Weber, K. P., & Kalb, G. (2015). Using Handwriting Without Tears® and a modified copy, cover, compare through chaining to teach name writing to a preschooler with developmental delays to write his                           name. IJAR1(3), 59-65.

MacDuff, G. S., Krantz, P. J., & McClannahan, L. E. (2001). Prompts and prompt-fading strategies for people with autism. Making a  difference: Behavioral intervention for autism, 37-50.

Writing Without Tears Worksheets id#0 Worksheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from